Can a Non-Custodial Parent Move Out of State?

When a custody court order is created in Texas, it will likely outline where a child is legally allowed to live. Usually, children will be restricted to the county in which the case is handled; however, this isn’t always the case.

One reason for this is that the court system wants children to have both parents in their lives as they grow up, even if they are divorced or separated. The residency rules in these cases are referred to as “domicile restrictions.”

Although this is the goal, it’s not always possible. For example, one parent may decide to move out of state, which creates an entirely new set of complications. In Texas, custody is called “conservatorship.” It can be awarded to just one parent in sole conservatorship or to both in joint managing conservatorship. The court must make decisions on conservatorship based on what’s in the best interests of the child or children involved.

Residency Responsibilities of the Primary Managing Conservator in Texas

In a joint conservatorship, one parent is named as the primary managing conservator. This individual is responsible for establishing the child’s main or primary residence in the geographic area set by the court (if one has been set). The order is considered binding, and it restricts residency to a county or several counties close to where the non-custodial parent is living.

If the primary managing conservator wants to move away from the other parent, the court requires them to present evidence that shows:

  • A written agreement between the parents consenting to this move
  • Why the move would be in the best interests of the child
  • How the non-custodial parent can still be able to stay in the child’s life.

If the court rules that the primary conservator can move, then a court order will be issued that allows this to happen.

If the primary managing conservator tries to move out of the state (or a set geographic area) without a court order or agreement, then the other parent can request the court to enforce the initial geographic restrictions set out in the custody order. In some situations, this will require that the primary conservator move back to this area or lose their status of primary conservatorship for the child or children involved.

Depending on the circumstances, the primary managing conservator may be allowed to move freely without receiving a court order. However, in every situation, the primary parent must provide notice of the move to the non-custodial parent. It’s best to discuss this with a child custody lawyer in Texas before making any move or taking action.

Residency Responsibilities of the Non-Primary Managing Conservator in Texas

The non-custodial parent or non-primary managing conservator has an easier residency situation. If you are wondering can a non-custodial parent move out of state, the answer is usually “yes.” The main reason for this is that this parent isn’t planning to take the child or children with them when they move.

Understanding What Happens When the Non-Custodial Parent Moves

In most situations, the non-custodial parent is pushing to have the domicile restriction established or enforced. This is because they want to ensure they can remain a part of their child’s life.

If the custodial parent is opposed to the restriction, the reason is usually related to a new love interest, their job, or being closer to extended family. The court will consider the wishes and reasoning of both parties to determine what is best for the child or children involved.

When a non-custodial parent moves, you may wonder – what now? What happens next depends on the established order or decree relating to the children. In most cases, though, two things may occur:

  • The original domicile restriction will remain in place (no change is mentioned or moving is forbidden).
  • If the non-custodial parent decides to move beyond the area of the domicile restriction, it allows the custodial parent to move anywhere they like.

A well-written decree or order will likely include the second option. This is to resolve any issues related to the non-custodial parent’s moving.

For issues where the divorce decree is silent about this situation, it’s necessary to have an agreement (the best option is a revised Court Order) to make a move or a hearing that will give you the right to do so. Unfortunately, filing for and getting a hearing can be an expensive and time-consuming process. In most cases, the court will allow the custodial parent to move if the other parent did first; however, it may be with certain stipulations. For example, if the child’s non-custodial parent only moved 50 miles away, then the custodial parent may not be allowed to move 1,000 miles away.


Can a non-custodial parent move out of state without notice?

A non-custodial parent in Texas has the right to move out of the state or assigned geographic area; however, the children cannot relocate with them. When the non-custodial parent moves out of state, an update to the visitation schedule will likely be necessary.

How far can a parent move with joint custody?

If you have joint custody of your child or children, you can only move within the geographic boundaries set by the court. If you want to or have plans to move beyond these boundaries, you must seek approval from the court.

What are geographic restrictions in Texas?

Some Texas parents are surprised to learn that their divorce decree may include geographic restrictions for the custodial parent. Geographic restrictions are used as part of the Texas court’s public policy. It means that both parents have the right to continue frequent contact with the child or children in question.

Geographic restrictions often limit what county a child can reside in. Adjacent counties and school districts may be allowed. Usually, relocating just a short distance is considered non-disruptive, which means it will likely be approved. However, in cases where one parent wants to move to another state or longer distances, court intervention may be required.

It’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about your rights and options in these situations. You want to avoid violating the court order that has been established. Going to court and getting approval for a move may be necessary. An attorney can provide more insight about your individual situation.

How can you pursue changes to relocate in Texas?

Relocation can be approved via court intervention or by agreement with the other parent. This can be done by filing a motion to modify your existing court order or to file a new suit.

By Agreement

If a parent wants to move away with their child or children, they can opt to reach an agreement for this relocation. Even if the parent who is not moving agrees to this relocation, it’s necessary to address potential issues with the court. This includes several things, including child support amounts, travel schedule changes, and access.

Court Intervention

In some situations, a child’s parents may not be able to agree about relocation. This is often the case if the parent who is not moving wants to stop the move or contest it if they believe it is not in their child’s best interests. In some cases, this parent may believe that the move is being done to alienate or deprive them of having a meaningful relationship with their children. It’s smart to hire an attorney in this situation to ensure your rights are protected.

Can I move out of state with my child?

If a non-custodial parent wants to move out of the state, there are usually no major requirements or needs to go to court. However, it’s important to understand that this isn’t the case for the custodial parent.

Why You Should Hire an Attorney for Relocation Issues and Questions in Texas

When it comes to child custody issues, there’s no question they can be complex and confusing. Some of the reasons to consider hiring a Texas family law attorney for help with relocation issues are:

Understanding of the Custody Laws

After reviewing your situation, the attorney you hire can help you figure out the best way to move forward with your case. In some situations, you may have a better chance of achieving the desired outcome if you negotiate with the other parent rather than taking the situation to court. Building a strategy based on the weaknesses and strengths of your situation is a crucial step that you should utilize as early in the process as possible.

Presentation of Your Side of the Situation or Story

If a child custody dispute winds up going to court, you and the child’s other parent will likely both have strong feelings or emotions about what should occur. You may go to court and focus on feelings rather than facts. It’s challenging to keep these feelings out of the situation. However, an attorney will present the facts and look out for your best interests in court. This will give you a better chance of a successful outcome.

Contact Our Legal Team for Help with Your Relocation Situation in Texas

Are you dealing with questions regarding relocation in Texas? If you are a non-custodial or custodial parent, our legal team at Amsberry Law Firm can help. The first step in this process is to get in touch with our legal team by calling (210) 354-2244. We will review the facts of your case and create a plan of action to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

Attorney Russell Amsberry

Attorney Russell J.G. Amsberry

Attorney Russell J.G. Amsberry founded the Amsberry Law Firm in 1995 with the goal of providing clients with exceptional, focused representation on their issues. His success as a legal advocate has been reflected in the numerous professional honors he has received, such as speaking engagements and inclusion in Scene in SA magazine’s listing of the best lawyers in San Antonio, a Distinguished rating from Martindale-Hubble, and an amazing rating from Avvo. [ Attorney Bio ]